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This project is located at the east side of Beijing Jing Yuan Arts Center. The owner wants to turn the first and second floors of the office building into a “free Café” where customers can stay and communicate freely. Because the first Ban Shan café is located at the foot of Fragrant Hills of Beijing, so this café downtown could smell the “hills” as well.

Budget for such a café is limited, so while building this space we could only use common materials. What is very interesting is that the storey height for the first floor is 3.8 meters, which is too high for one floor, and not high enough for two floors, so the design of this space is full of challenge. The word “Shan (mountain)” reminds us of a poem of Su Shi: “From the side, a whole range; from the end, a single peak; Far, near, high, low, no two parts alike. Why can’t I tell the true shape of Lu Shan? Because I myself am in the mountain.” so a crazy idea came to our mind suddenly, we dug down one meter at the center of the space, and then built a mezzanine over it.

When customers walk into the dug “basement” through the mezzanine, an experience of “walking into the mountain” is presented. The floor height of the mezzanine is low, so inside it customers could only sit or lie; it is a good place for chatting for a couple of friends. A log cabin is built under the stairs leading to the second floor, and the stairs are hidden behind the log cabin. The second floor is divided into several small spaces, instead of using solid partitions, we use shelves of green plants. The natural shapes of the plants are changed as time passes by. Sit under the sunlight and with winds breezing, it must be the most cozy and comfortable experience!

This is the freely-organized, flexible space that we built, which is able to grow as it was alive. Every brick and wood here are signs of the workers’ efforts, and they are having a kind of dialogue with people within this space.

Designers: Fei Pan, Zhi-Bang Shao, Xiao-Han Li / Robot3 Design
Photographer: Xi-Xun Deng

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